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ಕೃಷ್ಣ ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಿ - Krishna Shastry
ಪ್ರಾಣಿ ಹಕ್ಕುಗಳು, ಶುದ್ಧ ಸಸ್ಯಾಹಾರ, ಪರಿಸರ, ಆರೋಗ್ಯ ಇವೆಲ್ಲವನ್ನೂ ಒಳಗೊಂಡ ವೀಗನಿಸಂ ಎಂಬ ತತ್ವದಲ್ಲಿ ನಂಬಿಕೆ ಇಟ್ಟಿರುವ ಒಬ್ಬ ಸರಳ ಕನ್ನಡಿಗ ನಾನು.
ನನ್ನ ಇತರ ಆಸಕ್ತಿಗಳೆಂದರೆ ನೀತಿಶಾಸ್ತ್ರ, ಸಾರ್ವಜನಿಕ ನೀತಿಸಂಹಿತೆಗಳು, ಸಾರ್ವಜನಿಕ ಆರೋಗ್ಯ, ಆವಿಷ್ಕಾರಗಳು, ವಿಜ್ಞಾನ, ಕನ್ನಡ ಭಾಷೆ, ಭಾಷಾನೀತಿಗಳು ಇತ್ಯಾದಿ.

I am a simple Kannadiga following veganism, that cares about animal rights, pure vegetarianism, environment and health.
My other interest include ethics, public healthcare, public policies, innovation, science & technology, Kannada language and linguistic policies.
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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Towards a Sustainable & Compassionate World


“Genuine” question from a farmer - What to do with male calves?

Take a look at the below conversation in one of the animal welfare groups, which is the main inspiration behind this blog article.

Email 1: From XYZ

Forwarding a letter I received for your valuable inputs.

Subject: What to do with male calves

Dear XYZ,

We have seven male calves at my farm and its getting hard to support them when we can't feed the cows and dogs we've already adopted! I don't want to sell them/abandon them of course but you can understand how the bulls will consume far more than our cows at a later stage.. earlier we would use them as drought bulls etc but with the coming of tractors things have changed... I'm wondering if you know anybody else with a similar issue and what exactly they are doing to take care of the futures of their calves?

I need to come up with a plan soon because it's getting harder to feed/medicate and care for all equally.. my father is extremely sensitive and just about these issues and we are only too aware of what happens in gaushalas across UP.. do you know of any options/organisations we can approach? We are considering keeping one for stud purposes as artificial insemination is the biggest culprit..

We treat our cows like family and even though 3 of them are now not giving milk and are old while two were adopted, it's impossible to manage a dairy with 7 calves/would be bulls!

Hope you understand my situation..only looking for humane solutions and if there aren't any, would really like to somehow work on making them!

Love,
FarmerABC.

Email 2: From a passionate vegan activist

This is the main reason why vegan solutions are the only way. I know the world is not going to change overnight but its really really important to keep spreading the message. Vegan Outreach fliers are available with …..

Email 3: From XYZ

I know. But the awareness will still take some time to translate into actions. The question is what do we advise in this situation. Where people are nice to their cows, no artificial insemination, keeping a gap of 2-4 yrs between natural pregnancy.  Still, what do we do with the male calves? There's a limit to space and resources both. Is there anyone who has something in mind as a trial solution also?

Further Emails:

The email chain continued where no one really had a solution in mind, though everyone felt a strong need for one.  So, the million dollar question remains – What do we advise in this particular case? Here I am making a humble attempt to suggest a solution. Even this is not an immediate answer to the person who asked the question, but I want to suggest something that can at least help such people in coming days.

Difference between Sustainable & Compassionate

First I want to write a few words about these two very important subjects that are close to my heart – Sustainable & Compassionate. I don’t want to define or elaborate on what these terms mean (enough is written about these already), but simply want to highlight that sometimes these can lead us in different directions and confuse us also. Here are some simplistic examples:

Example 1: If I travel using a horse vs. a motor vehicle – while latter one prevents direct animal abuse, the former one does seem to be more environment friendly. So, which one is better?

Example 2: If I am living in a dessert or place with extreme cold, hunting locally available animal might be more sustainable compared to importing vegetables & fruits from a far away place, but hunting obviously is not a humane way of life (and animal ingredients as food might not be great for health too, as many experts say). So, if I am forced to live in such place, what do I do?

So, which of these terms we should care about more and why? This is something that I ponder upon many times, these days. As a vegan, I feel that the real solution is to dream about and materialize a Sustainable & Compassionate World. Now, what exactly does this mean, and how to go about it? We need to understand few things before we go into it.

(Urban) Vegans urging (Rural) Farmers to go vegan – does it really work? If not, why?

I am starting with an assumption here i.e. most vegans are urban people (feel free to correct me if I am wrong here!) and most farmers can be classified as rural. Even though there are exceptions, I am quite sure that by and large this is true – while the latter one is kind of obvious to me, the former one is an interesting point to ponder upon.

No one likes to be preached, especially by someone who doesn’t walk the talk. This happens often when urban vegans try to preach rural farmers. Why? Because most of the urban vegans are just superficially vegans. They do not consume or use animal ingredients directly alright, but they fail to project positive image when it comes to many other things:

-          If you consider an organic vegetable, the traceability becomes very important aspect i.e. throughout the lifecycle, the product should adhere to organic principles. But vegan world is not that mature yet. Many of the plant based products have cruelty associated with them in their lifecycle, and without much choice vegans ignore such factors and keep the definition simplistic, which fails to fetch the respect it deserves.

-          What are the income sources of most of the urban vegans? Do their jobs actually uphold their principles or do they “cheat” their consciousness sometimes (without much choice maybe?). Many times I am sure the jobs they do actually increases consumerism and indirectly results into lot of cruelty on animals. If we are talking about a vegan who is just trying to meet his needs (definition of needs can also be debatable!), it is one thing, but I also see many vegans who accumulate tremendous amount of money and choose not to spend their fortune to spread the veganism in a bigger way. (So, should vegans not accumulate money? Don’t laugh, answer is not simple.) I would still respect such person for not consuming animal ingredients directly, but I would still see that person as one of the “basic” vegans, who could evolve a lot more in the path of veganism.

-          Exactly what kind of lifestyle these vegans adopt from sustainability point of view? How much do they travel? In what kind of houses they live? How much of electricity or water they use and where does it come from? And so on… The trick here is that veganism is not an absolute word – we live in a world where cruelty is part of nature, and vegans are only trying to reduce their contribution towards it as much as possible – and there cannot be any limits to it. Quitting direct usage of animal stuff is only a starting point.

On the other hand, many of the rural farmers even though not vegans as per technical definition, lead lifestyle that is much more sustainable when compared to most urban vegans. This sustainability aspect, I am sure, reduces their “cruelty footprint” to a large extent. And unfortunately many urban vegans fail to recognize and respect this aspect.

I am not saying all farmers are saintly (these days urban influence has made them also insensitive and greedy in many cases) and urban people are devilish (there are many good hearted people who really wish to be in a different world but continue to live in urban area out of compulsions), but I am just saying that many farmers might look at vegan talk as impractical if not silly and hypocritical. And I understand that sentiment, especially when a farmer asks above question and vegans don’t have a great answer.

So, is there a solution?

To gain moral right to preach the farmers, vegans need to at least visualize how they can go back to nature, farmlands and grow their own food "veganically" and meet their other needs with very less cruelty footprint.

If they themselves cannot make that transition immediately, at least they should be willing to fund such programs, while continuing to live “comfortably” in urban world. So, where are such programs? That’s exactly what I am proposing as a solution here – a Vegan Conversion Program.

Vegan Conversion Program

Here is the solution in nutshell - let existing farmers use their vast experience & (financial) help from urban vegans, and create compassionate-vegan villages. Takeaway for urban vegans will be that such platforms will eventually help them move back to nature with ease, which should be the ultimate goal of vegans anyway, if they really care about reducing their cruelty footprint.

Some of you might feel that this is just an impractical dream. But let me remind you that India is a very different country than others in many ways. Here the concepts of compassion and sustainability are deep rooted in many cultures and traditions, and it might be easier than we think to achieve this conversion.

There are numerous compassionate people who could be converted to vegans with a proper support system. However, I am not talking about giving something for free – that is something I usually don’t like. The support system I am talking about is something which specifically addresses cases like the one mentioned here, which are definitely worth investments from vegans in terms of time, energy as well as money.

High Level Framework for the support system

·         The fundamental goal of the program should be to identify potential & genuine cases where a person or family or business can be systematically introduced to, educated about and slowly converted to be vegan. This identification can happen through recommendations of many credible vegans.

·         Initial part should be the introduction & basic education about veganism (from all different angles - compassion, environment and health), followed by a basic "test" to see if applicants are really willing to even consider the change. If they pass it, they can be qualified for next stage.

·         On case by case basis, the program should help them identify transition milestones under various parallel tracks. For example in this case, various tracks can be:

a)      Turning vegans themselves while continuing to own cattle and other animals (this would be a true test)

b)      Coming up with alternate agriculture models (suitable to their specific scenario) that might not need cattle or other animals in any way (not even their dungs or urine) and that is still environment friendly to a large extent

c)      Coming up with financial models that clearly identify costs & benefits of having existing cattle, and exactly how much is the deficit that they are claiming that might need external funding

d)     Coming up with solutions of how to earn more revenue from the existing cattle for the time being, without causing more harm to them

·         For each of these tracks, milestones can be defined along with terms and conditions on case by case basis, and funds can be released upon meeting the defined criteria. These funds should help such individuals/families/businesses make the transition in a reasonable way.

·         Of course some amount of "sacrifice" and "hardship" will be expected out of the participating people during the process, and that is the price they should be willing to pay if they truly love those animals as family members, as they claim.

·         The financial contributors should realize that they (vegans) are the true beneficiaries of this conversion program eventually. Also, the contribution need not limit to just financial means, probably they can get opportunities to spend time in village, and experience the issues first hand.

·         The participating farmers need not feel small that they are depending on others money for their survival – the so called “money” always has unknown origins and is just a tool to achieve real dreams. On the other hand, they should be proud that they will be pioneers and pillars of sustainable & vegan eco systems.

·         Of course, reasonable steps need to be taken to formalize all these and to prevent abuse of the funds. But that needs to be done in anything and everything, right?

So, can wealthy urban vegans in India (or elsewhere) come together and build such a support system? With their help, can rural India show the way to a Sustainable & Compassionate living model? What do you think?

2 comments:

prashanth acharya said...

Shastrigale,
An interesting piece indeed. One sees Gandhi's concept of 'Gram Swaraj' reverberate throughout the article and your suggestions to move towards it by using the existing system of a predominantly urban market driven economy sounds exciting.
But, while it is true that urban population's cruelty footprint is larger in magnitude (although many times unseen and indirect), will it not be too naive to assume that the rural populace is largely free of cruelty?
Also, since most large scale cruelty in the rural environment (that in battery cages, dairies, piggeries etc.) is due to the demand from the urban population, don't you think strategies to stem the demand are more 'humane' than to expect poor farmers to compromise on a source of income? When even the seeds the farmers get are a result of decisions we urban-ites take, is it fair to expect them to already start appreciating the vision of a few vegans?

ಕೃಷ್ಣ ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಿ - Krishna Shastry said...

Dear Prashanth, I should confess that I haven't got a chance to read in depth about "Grama Rajya" philosophy what our dear Gandhiji mentioned, I know bits and pieces about it, and I guess essentially it must be similar. Glad that you identified that connection.

What you said about increasing cruelty footprint by rural population is true, but that I already pointed out in the article when I said all rural people need not be saintly. And you have identified the source of this problem correctly - it is urban population that is manipulating the whole world and driving (dragging along?) rural population in this direction of greed and materialism. That is why I say that it is the responsibility of urban population to start looking beyond just superficial changes in their lives than preaching rural people. It is understandable if they cannot come out of their comfort zones all of a sudden, but by collaborating with sensitive rural people and helping them build conscious eco-systems, they can possibly drive bigger and larger long term changes. I am not at all asking rural people to compromise - instead, I am asking urban people to fund rural people and drive the changes. I am sure there are many compassionate farmers out there who would not be so cruel to animals if they have proper financial backing to treat them nicely.

I know many wealthy urban people buying farm lands in rural area. But again, most of such acts are again driven by greed & selfish motives, without any regards to principles or will to conserve anything. (There are always exceptions, I am not trying to undermine anyone's genuine efforts by generalizing).

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